Have you ever spent time gazing deeply into someone’s eyes while they were talking with you? Really paying attention to every word, doing your best to understand?
Rather than interrupt with question or let your mind wander off into its stories (the way minds do), you truly tried to feel the emotion behind their words?
If you have, then you might know what I mean about the power of deep listening to heal many ills of the world. As humans, we deeply yearn to be seen and understood by other sentient beings. It is deeply wired into our survival DNA as a species.
When we feel seen and deeply appreciated by another human being, we start to mirror back that feeling toward the world. We connect more deeply with others around us, and we start to heal the wounds we all carry, personally and collectively.
I have to admit that listening deeply is something I have not practiced as consistently as I would like with loved ones. Listening without judgment and with true curiosity is an art and a practice. It requires awareness of your own mind, and the ability to stay present and return even when you feel distracted.
All I know is that when I listen deeply to people, whether my family or my coworkers or colleagues, I am transformed as well. When I have made that connection with intention to deeply understand not just the words but the emotion behind them, all of my relationships improve.
In an era where it is too easy to be distracted, try deeply listening to someone today. Ignore the pings and dings from your phone. Set aside the opinions and judgments. Just watch how this practice brings greater joy and ease to your life and your work.
I have been thinking a lot lately about where I have been, and where I am going next. It feels a little unsettling, this sensation of knowing I am done with a certain phase of my work life but not yet identifying a clear direction for the next phase.
It reminds me of a concept that was introduced to me nearly half my life ago (22 years, as I am nearly 44) during my college graduation, the notion of liminal space, the place where all transformation takes place. Author and Theologian Richard Rohr describes this space as:
where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed.
I am very much there now.
Some people arrive at this threshold state due to a change in their external world, and I suppose there are circumstantial factors that pushed me here. But my own transformation feels very internally driven, these nudges from my soul making themselves known in a fuller way.
As an anthropological phenomenon, liminality is typically marked in some way with ritual because there is a certain rite of passage the individual must traverse. Teenagers are “liminal beings” for example, as neither children nor adults.
I also find it fascinating that liminality can apply to spatial or temporal dimensions, can be applied to a variety of subjects: individuals, larger groups (cohorts or villages), whole societies, and possibly even entire civilizations. Wikipedia cites examples of groups of people who live betwixt and between, such as immigrant groups, or racial or sexual minorities, often living at the periphery of dominant culture.
As a multi-ethnic person myself, I experience the world in a sort of liminal way. I often see certain intersections in a way that possibly would not occur to someone living within the dominant culture. I now see this capacity as a gift, rather than another way I do not “fit in” to most groups.
The ambiguity of such liminal periods in our lives is best met with creativity and openness. Being in community with others facing big transitions seems to help. I believe getting in tune with what our souls are calling forth is how we must ground ourselves during this time. Maybe these liminal periods are what clear away the “junk” of domesticated normalcy and wake us to the potential we had not seen before.
In some ways, I see the culture around me undergoing a transition as well. Absurd things are happening in our world. We cannot see these in the same way we always have, and yet, we struggle to know what this new thing will become. But rather than fear this ambiguity, I believe we must embrace it. We must find ways to exist with our contradictions, and realize this is a part of a transformation of consciousness that requires us to evolve as humans.
The sooner we understand that we are all in this together, that separation is the illusion, the better we can move forward and embrace new ways of being. In the meantime, we are in a process of becoming conscious, neither asleep nor fully awake. We are on the threshold of change, and it is time to mindfully awaken to a new reality.
I have been posting daily since last October after launching in September. It seems fitting that I celebrate this milestone while in Scottsdale Arizona to see two of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck at a Celebrate Your Life weekend event.
Friday evening a group of maybe 600-700 women attended a conversation with both of them in which they talked about the kind of magic that springs forth when we trust our true nature rather than culture. Martha spoke about the fact that we are participating in a shift in human consciousness. But it is a transformation that will involve joy and rest, not continuous striving.
To me, there were profoundly moving stories, and so much wisdom and lightness in the way they engaged the audience and engaged each other in a playful dialogue. They spoke about topics that were collected from cards submitted by their audience. I am recording a few take-away ideas from my notes.
–Transformation: this happens throughout our lives, not just once or twice.
–Trust: you must trust in the face of fear, and as you do this you become stronger and more resilient.
–Gratitude: There is no happiness without gratitude. But feel for this gratitude in your body, rather than “force-feeding it” to yourself.
–Soul-mates: you can have many soulmates throughout your life that are not necessarily lovers.
–Love: it is the relationship between yourself and the universal love around and within you that is most important.
–Motivation: Martha said to ask yourself “not just want to you want, but what do you yearn for?” Then make a pledge to keep working for what we year for, without letting the cultural models blind us to these yearnings.
–Purpose: this one struck me profoundly. Liz Gilbert said that the purpose of our lives is to know that we are loved. That’s all. Just to know we are loved, exactly the way we are. It is so profound, and it hit me as truth, in my body. Wow.
–Diversity: the final question was on this and Liz wanted to pass the mike because realizing the privilege of being part of a pair of white women made her want to give voice to another. The African American woman who came forward was Felicia and she said “diversity is being willing to open your heart with everyone, no matter their color, station in life or area of difference.” Beautiful.
On Saturday we are supposed to bring notebooks, sit next to people we do not know (easy, since I did not travel here in a group) and leave our phones behind. I’m really looking forward to the day! Morning workshop with Liz; afternoon workshop with Martha.
What a great privilege to hear from two wonderful authors that I “know” and love from reading so many of their books! Tremendous gratitude for this experience. Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend.